Résumé Writing

Getting A Job in Washington - Ten Basic Résumé Tips

PURPOSE OF THE RÉSUMÉ: The purpose of the résumé is not to get you a job, but to get you an interview. The résumé is the first stage of initial employer/employee contact.

THE LENGTH OF THE RÉSUMÉ: A résumé (particularly in Washington, D.C.) should be no more than one page in length. If yours is longer, SHRINK IT. A résumé is not a comprehensive history of your life and career—that is a curriculum vitae typically used in academia, the legal profession and other fields. A résumé should be a summary of your skills and experience. If necessary, limit job descriptions to one or two sentences, stressing your accomplishments. Your résumé should be easy and quick to read.

PAPER COLOR: White or ivory colored paper is recommended. Avoid bright neon colors or any colors that appear loud and unprofessional. It is not the color of the résumé that makes a candidate stand out; it is the clarity of his/her résumé.

PROOFREADING: Have three different people proofread your résumé. The most common mistakes are spelling errors, inconsistency and gaps in dates. Ask current or past employers, your colleagues, and your mother or father to critique it for the common errors.

RÉSUMÉ STYLE: In Washington, D.C., it is important to list your résumé with experience first. Education and skills should follow. For recent college graduates, listing your education first is perfectly acceptable since experience may be limited. Listing internships is important in helping recent graduates show some experience and familiarity with the public policy profession. Make sure your résumé is written using one font of a reasonable size (8 point is too small; 14 point is too large), and does not mix several different typestyles or fonts. Again, the key is to keep it neat and simple.

SHOW DATES AND LOCATIONS: List dates and locations for any held jobs, internships, etc. Make sure that dates showing large gaps or overlap are justified. Do not forget to note the dates of educational degrees, graduation, graduate studies, etc.

AVOID LONG SENTENCES AND LARGE BLOCKS OF TYPE: At first glance, your résumé will be briefly viewed. Make your résumé easy to understand, and avoid acronyms and lingo. You do not want someone to have to sit and think about what you are trying to convey. Don't list your college courses. Employers already have a good idea of what classes you probably took in college.

TAILOR YOUR RÉSUMÉ: Tailoring your résumé so that it emphasizes your skills concerning a particular job is fine. For example, if your are seeking a political job, you should indicate all relevant political experience (College Republicans, College Democrats or campaign experience, for example). If it is a research position, emphasize these experiences, and so on.

LOCAL ADDRESS: Including a local address for D.C.-area employers is very important. Typically, employers are looking to fill a position within a month and need to start the interview process immediately. For expediency, list your email address if you have one. The best advice is to move into the area as soon as possible to be available for interviews and networking.


  • For an entry-level position, omit an "objective" to avoid limiting your employment opportunities.
  • Unless you are right out of school, it is not customary to put your high school on your résumé.
  • Do not include "References available upon request" on your résumé. It is understood that you will furnish references when asked.